Relocation of Child in Child Custody
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Under Florida law, relocation occurs when a child is moved to a principle residence more than 50 miles from his current place of residence. Current place of residence is the residence entered on the last order establishing or modifying the parenting plan.
If a parent wishes to relocate a child 50 miles or more away from the child’s current residence the parent must either get written consent from everyone entitled to time sharing with the child on the parenting plan or serve a petition to relocate on everyone entitled to time-sharing. Failure to get consent or court approval by petition may result in the parent being held in contempt or compelling the parent to return the child.
The petition for relocation of the child must include:
- The location and phone number of the intended new residence;
- The date of the intended move
- A detailed statement of the specific reasons for the proposed relocation of the child;
- A proposal post relocation time sharing schedule; and
- Proposal on transport in regard to how the new proposed time-share will be kept.
If there are objections to the petition for relocation of the child there will be a hearing where the parent that wishes to relocate the child must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the relocation is in the best interest of the child.
To determine whether relocation should be approved courts consider the best interest of the child. Factors to determine what is in the best interest of the child include, but are not limited to:
- Involvement and duration of the child’s relationship with each parent and the possibility of preserving those relationships;
- Child’s age, needs, and impact of relocation;
- Child’s preferences;
- The reason that one parent is seeking to relocate the child and the other is opposing the relocation; and
- Whether relocation will enhance the quality of the child’s life.
The initial burden of proof and burden of production is on the parent wishing to relocate. The petitioning parent must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that relocation is in the best interest of the child. If that burden of proof is met the burden then shifts to the non-relocating parent to show by a preponderance of the evidence that the proposed relocation is not in the best interest of the child. The court must consider all of the factors considered for parenting plan determination (best interests), as well as the following additional factors:
- Established relationships with family nearby, including the non-relocating parent and other family members nearby, such as siblings, grandparents, etc.
- Primary caregiver. Who is primary caregiver?
- Age and developmental stage of child (a younger child, for example, will be more easily hampered in communications with non-relocating parent).
- Preserving the parent child relationship.
- Child’s preference acquires greater weight as the child is older.
- Enhance life of relocating child for example, to what extent would relocation of child provide child with educational opportunities?
- The relocation is in good faith. Good faith would mean something such as a better quality of life for parent. In other words, is the relocating parent relocating in bad faith? Is the relocation a means of inconveniencing other parent out of spite?
- History of substance, spousal, or child abuse of the parents.
Conversely, if parents agree on the relocation, a written agreement must be signed consenting to the relocation. The written agreement must include a new time-sharing schedule for the non-relocating parent and the agreement must include descriptions of any transportation arrangements related to the new time sharing schedule.
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